Isle of Skye Dinosaur Footprints sheds light on Scotland’s Jurassic Past.

On the 2nd of April 2018 research was published by Palaeontologists from the University of Edinburgh, Staffin Museum and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the Scottish Journal of Geology. This research focused on the discovery and analysis of Sauropod and Theropod Dinosaur fossil footprints from the Mid Jurassic found in the Lealt Shale Formation at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point) on the Isle of Skye. This article will examine this discovery, the research that took place and what was found.


This month has been a very busy one for me hence why it has taken a while to get an article published. Thankfully I have no shortage of amazing Paleontological content to cover and share with you all!

The past few weeks has been an incredible one for Palaeontology with some amazing fossil discoveries. On the 2nd of April research was published in the Scottish Journal of Geology about sauropod and theropod Dinosaur footprints found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Then on the 9th April research was published in the Journal of PLOS One by Palaeontologists about the fossil discovery of a jaw bone in Somerset belonging to a massive Triassic Ichthyosaur which would have been bigger than a Blue Whale. Both these fossil discoveries have been pretty major, but for the purpose of this article I have decided to focus on just one, that of the exciting analysis and examination of the fossil footprints found at Brothers Point on the Isle of Skye.

The research about the fossil footprints found on the Isle of Skye was first published on the 2nd of April and picked up by a variety of News and Science websites these included The Guardian, BBC News, Fox News, The National Geographic, TIME, Reuters and ZME Science to name just a few.

Sauropod Footprint
Sauropod Dinosaur footprint found at the Isle of Skye site.  Image credit: Paige Depolo, 2018 via The Scientist

What was the research?

The research cantered on the analysis of 50 Dinosaur footprints found at the Lealt Shale Formation at Rubha nam Brathairean also known as Brothers’ Point. Some of the footprints were formed by long-necked sauropods (up to 6.5ft) tall and by theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Palaeontologists and researchers at the site recorded and measured the footprints analysing around 50 in total, describing them in detail in their research (BBC NEWS, 2018). Previous fossil footprints had been found on Skye in 2015 by the same researchers of this study.

Many might think that for Palaeontologists being out in the field making these discoveries would be a pretty simple affair, but this could not be further from the truth. Many fossil and dig sites around the world suffer the problems of continuous erosion, dust and debris particles generated by wind may hinder a dig, covering a recently discovered fossil and land insecurity (rock falls and cliff collapses) can not only put people at risk of injury but can potentially damage valuable fossil material. Water in particular can be a danger, eroding the landscape in real time and making measurements and observations by Palaeontologists difficult. On Skye for instance being in the field involved cold, rain swept winds, the tossing around of drones and high tides hindering the analysis of the Dinosaur fossil footprints (Greshko, 2018).

Theropod Footprint
Footprint from a 7ft tall Theropod found on the Isle of Skye. Image credit: Paige Depolo, 2018 via Newsweek

What was found?

The research team on Skye having used drones to map the site used the 3D pictures and customised software to breakdown the Dinosaur tracks outline, as well as the orientation of the toes, presence of claws and how deep the tracks sank into the ground (Sky News, 2018). The team found that the research site at Brothers Point originally would have been part of a prehistoric lagoon over 160 million years ago. The footprints analysis that was undertaken suggested that sauropods spent time in lagoons during the Middle Jurassic alongside theropod carnivores who also inhabited the area.

Paige dePolo (cited in Andrei, 2018) who led the study stated: This track site is the second found on Skye. The rocks here are slightly older than those previously discovered on the island, suggesting sauropods lived here through a longer timescale than previously known. The fossil site should help to build a better picture of what the lives of Dinosaurs were like on Skye during the Middle Jurassic.

Fossils from the middle Jurassic are very rare so hopefully the continued research on Skye’s fossil footprints will unlock more of Scotland’s prehistoric history. This fossil discovery has been a great one for Scotland’s rich history so hopefully these will continue.

I hope you all have enjoyed this article! It has been really great to research this particular story, the Palaeontologists in Skye are really discovering some amazing fossil finds.  I look forward to sharing more with you all about the latest fossil discoveries this coming May.

Cliff above main trackway
A view from the cliff above the main track-bearing platform where dinosaurs once roamed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Image credit: Shasta Marrero/University of Edinburgh, 2018 via ABC News

 

References

 

BBC News, (2018) Dinosaur tracks on Skye ‘globally important’, [online] BBC News, Available from: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-43620237 [Accessed 15th April 2018]

 

 

Greshko M. (2018) Huge Dinosaur Footprints Discovered on Scottish Coast, [online] National Geographic, Available from: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/sauropods-dinosaurs-footprints-scotland-fossils-science/ [Accessed 15th April 2018]

 

 

Sky News, (2018) 170 million-year-old dinosaur footprints discovered on Isle of Skye, [online] Sky News, Available from: https://news.sky.com/story/170-million-year-old-dinosaur-footprints-discovered-on-isle-of-skye-11314975 [Accessed 18th April 2018]

 

 

Andrei M. (2018) Rare dinosaur footprint fossils give clues into a forgotten era, [online] ZME Science, Available from: https://www.zmescience.com/science/news-science/rare-dinosaur-fossil-footprint-04042018/ [Accessed 15th April 2018]

 

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